Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Immersion and Spirit

      Individuals immersed in what one colleague referred to as the “everyday crazies”, a state of more or less chronic psychic imbalance, are often suffering from an unconscious desire to experience numinous depths, a nourishing encounter with the mystic. Unfulfilled spiritual need generates intense anxiety that many take on as a day-in-day-out state of mind. Skating along the surface, from one emotional drama to another, with the attitude that this is what life is all about, can be addictive, destructive. The same colleague commented, as we were finishing lunch one afternoon, “I really take to heart what Freud said about chronic anxiety being the hallmark of neurosis. We rush, rush, rush. Complain about everything under the sun. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. It’s neurotic.” In contrast, I’m drawn to the writing of William James in his Essays on Psychical Research: “Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest….the trees…commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir.” Immersion into depth of soul, a deliberate and purposeful leaning into life, draws together psychic energies so that we are nourished and made sane, whole.
      Depth psychologist Robert D. Romanyshyn in his paper, The World Is a Tissue of Metaphors, noted that the dream “is a nightly address to the ego-mind which undoes its fixed positions, a kind of nightly humiliation that humbles consciousness and leads it back into the earth, a journey that re-situates mind in the humus, the soil of the soul.” Dream energy and waking life lived deliberately, reflectively, shift our momentum away from surface anxieties and craziness into healing realms of soul. Immersing ourselves in a reflective life counteracts neurotic chaos and tumult. Transcendent yet imminent, a psyche that is settled into the soil of the soul is both quickened spiritually and set right within the practicalities of everyday reality. William James noted that by their fruits not their roots shall you know them, an utterance that beckons us into the rich soil of soul that yields a bountiful emotional and spiritual harvest dependent not on affiliations or background but on depth of relationship to self.
      Immersion into the world of transformational archetypes requires proper attitude. I’m reminded of the story of three yogis who entered the Cave of All Knowing. The first went in, then after a time left, complaining it was a waste of time, a whole lot of nothing. The second crossed the threshold and shortly lost himself within the realm of mysteries, never to be heard of again. The third entered and within time emerged rejuvenated, transformed, enlightened. Michael Eigen, in his book Contact with the Depths, wrote that to become one so enlightened “ to live and assimilate something of the experience of the other two, those crippled by life’s impacts, as necessary and valuable parts of the self.” Descent into the underworld, stepping into the Cave of All Knowing, plunging into the mother sea of the collective unconscious, symbolize immersion into self, leaning into and immersing ourselves in the pulse and beat of life, what Romanyshyn describes as “ordinary epiphanies of the moment that, when we are ready and properly disposed, are momentous epiphanies, festive occasions when the miracle in the ordinary manifests itself, moments that are occasions for wonder and celebration.”

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Awareness and Spirit

Awareness opens us to the spiritual world
During one of my first Jungian psychoanalytic sessions thirty-five years ago with Dr. Arwind Vasavada, a man trained by C.G. Jung, he remarked, “awareness opens us to the spiritual world.” This insight jettisoned me into a night of dreaming in which an angelic being motioned with his right arm and beckoned me into an interior world that I had never before imagined. The words that came from this being were, “Look within.” This statement was followed by an opening into phantasmagorical dimensions of consciousness I later came to understand as realms of the collective unconscious that continue to reveal themselves in my life. Without a doubt, the angel of the interior world revealed a life changing reality of the spiritual world brought into the practical yet transcendent dimensions of daily life.
Synchronicity, the purposeful meeting of the inner and outer worlds, came to the fore during this critical time. Dream symbols and outer life events often paralleled one another so that an event or symbol in the dream world would manifest in the outer world. On one occasion, after many days and nights of overworking during my clinical residency, I left the hospital and realized that I hadn’t dreamed in a number of nights. This is unusual for me since dreaming nightly is more the norm. No sooner had I thought this than a bus passed with an advertisement along its side that read, “Your dreams are missing you!” Well, that’s quite a message from the unconscious revealing itself in a rather practical manner in the midst of a busy day. The human psyche is practical, spirituality and the spiritual world, attuned to the interplay of life situations and events with inner workings.
In Principles of Psychology, William James insisted, “Whatever things have intimate and continuous connection with my life are things of whose reality I cannot doubt.” Practical, emotional and spiritual meaning can imbue life situations with such heightened significance that we cannot help but become aware, more enlightened, as the result of encountering them. Transcendent phenomenon within the course of daily life occurs more frequently than we imagine, awareness bringing them to the fore of consciousness for inspiration, guidance, and potential transformation. One of my mentors in depth psychology taught that we have at least seven or eight synchronous, spiritually meaningful, occurrences each day. Awareness opens us to the psychic reality of things spiritual and emotional that can potentially affect us in pragmatic, transformative, ways.
A middle-aged female admitted to me that she had been using her spiritual practice of meditating four hours a day to deaden herself. “I didn’t want to feel what I needed to feel, to face what I needed to face, so I escaped.” She decided to take a three day break from meditating and discovered that her mind actually felt clearer, her energy more consistent, and her overall well being greatly improved. Over time, she discovered heightened awareness, enlightenment, by meditating less, finding her balance. It turned out that she was afraid of well being, feeling that she was unworthy. Awareness heightened her sensitivity to self and to the innate capacity to know joy and equanimity in life. Practical spirituality, for her, meant coming to terms with a balance between the inner and outer worlds. The symbolism of the meditative lotus posture acquired new meaning for her as the nexus between inner and outer worlds, the pitch of perfect awareness.